We asked LLP supporter/contributor and family therapist, Deanna Vance, about how she works with highly sensitive children in her therapy practice. She graciously shared considerations and techniques she uses when working with these special kids.
Highly sensitive/intuitive children are extremely perceptive and deeply affected by the energy of the environment and the people in them. For this reason, the very first consideration I make happens before they even enter my office. I begin with myself by practicing good self care. I have a beautiful morning routine which includes meditation, yoga and prayer. Then, once I am in my office I practice a breathing technique before seeing anyone and between each appointment. This breath clears my energy and grounds me to be very present. It goes like this: Breathe in through nose to the count of 4, hold to the count of 9, breathe out the mouth to the count of ten. This breathe is practiced while loosely having your tongue on the back of your upper teeth. Do this breath for four cycles.
The second consideration I make is my office space. Nature is soothing for sensitive/intuitive children and so my space is decorated with plants, shells, stones, fresh flowers, etc. I also keep the room energetically clean by opening windows, playing soothing music, candles, etc. I occasionally use sage and a Himalayan Salt lamp. Sensitive kids ( and adults) can feel the energy of a room the moment they enter. I once heard someone say that your space should be one in which "Angels dare to tread" and I love keeping that in mind.
The third important consideration is providing a kind, loving presence and a positive attitude. These children are easily overwhelmed and need to know that they are safe. They pick up easily on the subtleties and so it is important to be honest and authentic.
Being sensitive carries the need to have skills to manage stress. I always teach children how to take deep breathes and we practice throughout sessions. I have them fill up their "tummies" like its a balloon by breathing in through their nose, holding briefly and then letting the balloon out through their mouths. I also will practice with soap bubbles blowing out very slowly to see how big the bubble will get. The slower you breath, the bigger it gets. Another fun skill at relieving stress is to pretend like you are a wet dog and shake, shake shake releasing the water/stress. I often teach a Tapas Acupressure technique which both calms and grounds: With your left hand place your thumb and ring finger on the bridge of your nose allowing your pointer finger to rest on your forehead. Place your other hand behind your neck. Apply firm, but gentle pressure with both hands.
The fifth important skill that I teach are grounding techniques. A simple way to "ground" is to place both feet flat on the ground (barefoot if possible) and feel the rest of their body in the chair (legs, bottom, back, arms...) and then breath deeply. Children experience the immediate affect of this. I also use "Yoga Pretzel" cards, have them count the number of plants (pictures, chairs,etc.) in my room, pretend to be a tall tree with strong roots, stomp our feet by being a very large elephant.
All of these help to ground and reduce/release stress.
About Deanna Vance
Deanna Vance is a Licensed a Professional Counselor at the New Leaf Wellness Building. She has over thirty years of experience in varied settings including Community Mental Health, Group Homes, Schools & Private Practice. Deanna specializes in Play Therapy which is a powerful & effective reparative approach for children. Trauma and Attachment problems have been her expertise. She also enjoys working with adolescents and adults.
Deanna's passion is in gently guiding & supporting her clients in repairing and healing their relationships with themselves & others. She believes people were created to be in relationship & it is in these experiences that unhealed wounds show up. She guides parents to return to understanding and accepting their children (and themselves) fully and move away from diagnosing and "fixing". Deanna believes people are at their core loving, compassionate, and joyful and by providing a safe place for healing can return to that core way of interacting with themselves and others.
Deanna can be reached at (928)779-5118 x3 at her Private Practice in downtown Flagstaff, AZ.